Churches and other non-profit organizations are supporting a change in state liquor laws that would make it easier for them to give sealed bottles of alcohol to attendees of fund-raising events.
Photo: Contributed file photo/2012
Photo: Contributed file photo/2012

Ohio may make it easier for churches, nonprofits to give away alcohol

It would address what its sponsors called “a common occurrence of gifting away a ‘basket of cheer’ at a raffle, silent auction, or other fundraising event.”

Two Ohio legislators — one Democrat, one Republican — want to cut some red tape and make it easier for churches and other nonprofit organizations to give away beer, wine and liquor at fundraising events.

State Rep. John M. Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Twp., Clermont County) on Wednesday announced the introduction of House Bill 389, which they described as “bipartisan legislation intended to permit churches, nonprofit and charitable organizations the ability to gift away alcohol at fundraising events.”

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The bill continues a trend toward legislators re-examining some of Ohio’s sometimes-quirky liquor laws that business owners and nonprofit organizations believe don’t serve any real public purpose but instead create obstacles to their ability to operate. 

This most recent bill is intended to address what its sponsors called “a common occurrence of gifting away a ‘basket of cheer’ at a raffle, silent auction, or other fundraising event. Currently, Ohio law does not permit this practice without the sponsoring organization having obtained a particular liquor license,” the sponsors said in a release.

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Any alcohol that would be given away or raffled off by a church or nonprofit organization would have to be stored in sealed containers for off-premises consumption, according to the language of the bill.

Rogers said he was told of the restriction by the pastor of his parish in northeast Ohio, and decided to act.

“There is no need for our local churches and community organizations to be unknowingly breaking the law while in the process of raising funds to continue efforts that benefit so many here in Ohio,” Rogers said. “This proposal addresses that issue and helps them in their efforts.” 

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Becker, a GOP legislator who has sponsored other bills designed to streamline Ohio’s liquor laws, said he was “honored to join Rep. Rogers in cutting red tape to allow Ohio’s churches and other non-profit organizations to raise funds more easily.”

“As we approach Thanksgiving, now is the perfect time to introduce a bill which would bring joy to the numerous ministries who benefit from such organizations,”  Becker said.

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Becker has also sponsored separate legislation that would allow bars, restaurants and liquor stores to treat Sundays just as they would any other day of the week when it comes to alcohol sales. If it passes and becomes law, permit holders would not have to gather signatures to bring  Sunday “local option” issues to the ballot if the precinct already allows alcohol sales. 

Eudora Brewing Company is doing just that right now so voters in its Kettering precinct can decide whether the brewpub can sell wine and cider on Sundays, as it can every other day of the week.

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Becker and Rogers say their church/non-profits bill has bipartisan support from at least 23 additional legislators, “including members of House leadership from both sides of the aisle,” according to a release. It has not yet been referred to a House committee, the first step of review that could lead to a vote by the full Ohio House of Representatives.